You’re a freshman at college, enjoying the first few weeks of freedom. Freedom from your parents, freedom from high school, freedom from early morning classes (hopefully). But as great as the first few weeks of college are, they can also be a dangerous time: statistics reveal that more than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November and first year female students are at an increased risk for sexual assault (usually by an acquaintance) during the first few weeks on campus. Hence why the six weeks following the start of school have been dubbed “The Red Zone.”
Each year, NPC, along with member sororities such as Phi Sigma Sigma, Alpha Chi Omega, Sigma Kappa, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Alpha Delta Pi, Alpha Xi Delta, Tri-Sigma, and Alpha Sigma Alpha, work to create awareness around the issue by using #TheRedZone on social media. It’s an issue that’s important to all sorority women, which means it’s definitely important to us.
While it’s a total downer to even have to think about an issue as heavy as sexual assault when you first arrive at college, it is important to take action to protect yourself. According to Jody K. Althouse, Director of Outreach & Education at Centre County Women’s Resource Center , here are some steps you can take to avoid or help to prevent acquaintance rape:
Know your sexual intentions and limits and communicate them clearly. You have the right to say “no” to any unwanted sexual contact. If you say “no,” say it like you mean it. Back up your words with your body language. If you are uncertain about what you want, ask your partner to respect your feelings. Be careful to not give mixed messages.
Remember that your partner cannot read your mind. Be verbal and say what you are feeling. Tell the person you are with how far you want to go, what you want and don’t want to do, and when you want to stop.
Remember that some people think that drinking heavily, wearing certain clothing, or agreeing to be alone with them indicates a willingness to have sex. Be especially careful to communicate your limits and intentions clearly in such situations.
Trust your “gut” feelings. If you start to feel uncomfortable or unsafe in a situation, listen to your feelings and act on them. Get yourself out of the situation as soon as possible. Call for help.
Ask for help or “make a scene” if you feel threatened. If you are being pressured or forced into sexual activity against your will, let the other person know how you feel and get out of the situation, even if it’s awkward and even if you embarrass the other person or hurt his/her feelings.
Be especially careful in situations involving the use of drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol can make you less aware of danger signs and less able to communicate clearly. Be especially aware when you are in a new situation or with people that you don’t know well. You need to be able to make good decisions to protect yourself from sexual assault.
Go to parties or clubs with friends you can trust and agree to “look out” for one another. At parties where there is drinking or drugs, appoint a “designated sober person,” one friend who won’t drink or partake of drugs and who will look out for the others in the group by regularly checking on them. Leave parties with people you know. Leaving alone or with someone you don’t know very well can lead to rape.
Listen carefully to the person you are with in sexual situations. If your partner says “no” to sexual contact, or their body language tells you they are unsure or unwilling, stop. If your partner was willing at first, but now doesn’t want to go any further, stop. If you think you are getting a “mixed message,” or you are not sure what your partner wants, don’t use threats or force. Stop.
Ask your partner what she or he wants. Don’t assume you know what another person wants. For example, don’t automatically assume that just because a person gets drunk or agrees to be alone with you, they want to have sex. Don’t assume that just because someone has had sex with you before, she or he is willing to have sex with you again. And don’t assume that when a partner consents to kissing or other sexual touching, she or he is willing to have sexual intercourse.
Get verbal consent from your partner. Be aware that if you have sex with someone who is mentally or physically unable to give consent or is unable to resist, you are committing rape or sexual assault. If you have sex with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, “passed out,” asleep, unable to say “no,” or too “out of it” to know what is happening, you may be guilty of rape or sexual assault.
Resist peer pressure to do things you don’t want to do. Don’t participate in violent or criminal acts or get involved in any activity that makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t ever “join in” or “go along” with people who are abusing another person.
“Get involved” if you think someone else might be in trouble. If you see someone who could be about to commit rape or become a victim, help the person who may get hurt. Become an engaged bystander and stop the rape from occurring.
Be safe out there, sisters. .
For resources if you or a friend have been sexually assaulted, click here.
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